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My niece, Arabelle, is about six months old, but I'm fairly sure that she'll end up a nerd like her father, her uncle, and her aunty. In terms of learning to love fantasy and the opportunities that come with a strong sense of imagination, Dad has her covered. When it comes to literacy and worshipping the written word, Aunty Carly will be a mentor without equal. What can I give my beloved niece, her potential siblings and cousins? I could show them the value of hard work, the benefits of networking, how to write maybe?
I'll give all that I can, in addition to the gift of game.
My brother loves gaming just as much as I do, but he's almost always taken the easy way out with this pursuit: cheat codes, warp gates, Easy mode. I will teach my niece to persist in the face of adversity, to avoid the likes of GameFAQs.com and anything published by Brady Games.
I've been gaming since I could crawl, but I cut my teeth on some of the most brutal games of generations past: Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Shadow Dancer, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Super Thunder Blade, Ghosts n' Goblins. Before my sixth birthday, I came to know that death was a lesson, not punishment.
As games became more intricate and arguably bloated, the difficulty of most was in turn scaled down. We could save our progress: We didn't need to finish games in a single sitting. I became soft around the edges with games that coddled me with tutorials and hundreds of checkpoints. The likes of The Ninja and Secret Commando would break me if I came across them in my later years.
Thankfully, a few developers have come to embrace the beauty of brutal but fair difficulty in recent years. I haven't shown much love for Dark Souls or its ilk, but some challenging platformers have jumped out at me in the last two years: Super Meat Boy and Rayman Origins to be specific. SMB is probably a little too gruesome for a young girl, but the latest Rayman title is full of whimsy, beautiful art direction and, most importantly, ball-breaking difficulty.
Rayman Origins may have the modern trimmings of save points, checkpoints and achievements, but you're made to work for every inch of progress that you make. I've replayed single levels for hours at a time to try and earn every last Electoon, and I've never grown tired of dying continuously as a result of missing or utterly mistiming critical jumps. The visual charm should reel Arabelle in, and with Rayman and friends in tow, I can teach her to love difficulty and adversity. I can teach her persistence. I can teach her the value of hard work and attention to detail.
With Rayman Origins, I hope to show my niece the wonder of gaming and the beauty of the road less travelled.
We'll suffer…I mean learn together